Saturday, October 31, 2009

Cross-cultural storytelling August 2009

Following on the success of the Cross-cultural storytelling program, Annie Vanderwyk from Gibalee and I were successful in obtaining a Research Grant to continue the project in 2009.
We were very fortunate to have Stuart McMinn, also from Gibalee, come on board along with his company of Aboriginal dancers Minning Minni Kaiwarrine ('Night no more.")
We were also extremely fortunate to have Kiran Shah, an accredited storyteller with the Australian Storytelling Guild, and originally from Singapore, join us as a performing consultant. Kiran's cultural knowledge of South-East Asia (our theme for 2009) was immediately valuable as we worked through our stories with the performers the first time. Kiran was able to inform us of pronunciation, regional ways of doing things, and ensured that the flavour of the performance was culturally appropriate.
Open Day at the Ourimbah Campus was the scheduled day for the 1st performance of 2009, and we were really pleased with both the performances and the audience numbers. The room that we performed in however was less than suitable, as much as we tried to decorate it. No amount of fabric draping could hide the fact that it was a high technology teaching space, and the vibe was just wrong for the whole day.

The venue will definitely need to be changed for Kids Day Out in November.

PhD confirmation May 2009

A major milestone was passed in May, with finally completing my confirmation as a PhD candidate. A panel of academics gather to collect evidence of the work the the candidate has been doing over the course of 1 full year of their study. In my case, this came several years after I commenced, as I am undertaking my degree part time, and transferred from Masters in late 2005. This length of time prompted one of the panelists to say, "Well, I guess that means we can be tougher on you then."
I have nothing else to compare it to, but it did seem to me that the grilling from some of the academics was pretty severe. I must have managed to present my study adequately, as I was told in the meeting that I would be confrimed, pending the receipt of two pages of ammended proposal and methodology.
One of my supervisors gave me a huge hug at the end of it.

I am so pleased I never have to go through an experience like that again.

Storytelling workshop with Kenn Benn May 2009

What a treat to spend an entire weekend in the company of other storytellers, learning from a master storyteller. A full day workshop with New Zealand storyteller Ken Benn had us looking at researching historical characters on Saturday morning, with Ken staying in character of Leonardo DaVinci for the majority of the time. Saturday afternoon was spent examining comedy in storytelling. An enjoyable afternoon but not as satisfying for me as the historical character material. Comedy is really a very personal thing, and I'm not sure Ken and my sense of humour is really in sync.

But then dinner !!!!
Sue Alvarez very kindly opened her gorgeous home to members of the storytelling Guild for a degustation, in honour of our visiting teller. Who would have thought that our quiet, unassuming treasurer Stanley had such a gift for cooking. Each dish was better that the one that preceded it, and way past the point when I should have been saying that I couldn't fit any more in, I will still finding room somewhere.
The conversation was wonderful, with an opportunity to really chat with people from such diverse backgrounds, but all with a common love of people and communication.
Then back to the Hughended where I was staying the night. I really didn't expect to get a great night's sleep, but I barely remembered closing my eyes, before I woke at 7.30 in the morning, totally refreshed.

A light brekkie down in the cafe, then a walk along Queen Street, before coming back to the hotel and getting stuck into some study on my laptop.
The afternoon was again spent with members of the Guild at the Teller's Tea, where Ken was the featured teller. He was accompanied by my long-time friend Mary French,from Canberra, and delightful storyteller and bush poet Arch Bishop.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Challenge Ranch March 2009

Yay, back to Challenge Ranch again; this time to tell Australian stories. A group of 60 fantastic kids, who were really enthralled by the stories. I told my very Aussie version of Stone Soup for the first time, and got some very useful feedback on it from both the kids and the teachers.
Of course "Goanna and Dingo' play the tap sticks went down a treat, especially when I really emphasise Dingo's stupidity.

The teachers are always so friendly and keen to have a chat about storytelling before the session begins, so I always try to get there quite a bit early. Not much chance for a chat after the sessions, as they are busy getting the kids off to bed usually. It's a bit of a shame, because it would be good to get their feedback after the program.

NewMac Symposium Feb 2009

I presented a paper at the Annual NewMac Symposium, a joint project run by the Humanities Faculties of the University of Newcastle and Macquarie Uni.
My paper was on

Information as meaning-making: how children use a “sense of story” to understand narrative and information.

I was happy with how the paper went, except that the person before me went way over time, so I didn't have my allotted 20 minutes, and had to cut my presentation as I went along.

It was an interesting day, with lots of thought provoking presentations. As usual though, some of the best moments came during discussions over the tea and lunch breaks. It's good to know what other people are up to with their studies.

Cross-cultural storytelling Nov 2008

We had the great opportunity to run our Cross-cultural storytelling program again at the Ourimbah Campus in November 2008.
Kids Day Out is a huge community event, that has been held for the last 9 years on the Campus, and attracts 10,000 family members.
The kids that took part in the Open Day program were unavailable, so my colleague Annie was able to involve the amazing students from NAISDA.
They were so impressive! At the first run-through they were up off their seats and brainstorming interepretations of the stories.
At the KDO performances, they engaged with the kids (who wanted their photos taken with the NAIDSA kids) Always a great sign that kids have enjoyed it.
Watch the video attached to see what I mean

Halloween Storytelling UNEWC Oct 2008

As I had to develop a Halloween storytelling program for the radio, I thought I would see if any of my uni colleagues would like to be rehearsal bunnies.
An email was sent to all staff at the Campus and about 8 brave souls ventured into the gloom of the storytelling area that we set up in AV3. A darkened room, with only a covered table lamp for light.
As the audience entered, I sat completely still, with my head bowed and my face concealed by the wide brim on my dark hat. None of my body could be seen under my huge storytelling cape. (One of the audience members later said he didn't even realise I was sitting there.
I let the adience settle, and an uncomfortable silence descended, then I threw back the cape and commenced the story.
Seeing several people jump was very satisfying, and set the tone for the gruesome and suspenseful tales that followed.

Good fun, great practice and something I'll do again for other occassions.

Storytelling Guild Accreditation Sept 2008

Sunday, October 25, 2009

You would think that telling stories in front of a room full of storytellers would be easy wouldn't you? Sympathetic listeners, kindred spirits, all of that. But going for Accreditation with the Storytelling Guild was one of the hardest things I've ever done - storytelling-wise.
Sure, they're great listeners, and of course they are a fantastic responsive audience, but they are also very experienced in the art of storytelling, and know all the tricks in the book.
Anyway, I stood in the usual room at the Hughenden Hotel that we have our Teller's teas in, took a deep breath and plowed right in with asking the Riverside riddle question, and while they were thinking of that, the Guild president Vivienne very kindly agreed to be my volunteer as the lion in the story of the Dancing Lion. She did a great job, and telling a story that I've told for over twenty years allows you to relax into it, and play around with it as necessary.
The audience were then asked if anyone had solved the riddle. A few suggestions were made, but none really answered it, so then I told the story of The Riverside Riddle.
Eve Hoff and Stephen Martin also told for Accreditation.
We were then each called out individually to the dining area of the hotel to get feedback. How nerve-wracking - 3 professional storytellers doing a written critique of your telling. The feedback was great! One of the panel said she didn't have much written down because she was so engaged in the stories that she forgot to write! Music to a storytellers ears.
So, after telling stories for well over 25 years, I know am an Accredited Teller with the Australian Storytelling Guild (NSW)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Cross-cultural storytelling launch

An exciting new storytelling project is developing between the Ourimbah Campus Library and the Gibalee Centre at the Uni of Newcastle.
For several years, the Library has taken part in Open Day at the Campus with Library tours and storytelling. Annie Vanderwyk from the Gibalee Centre was interested in building on the storytelling by broadening it's scope and giving it a campus focus.
Thus was The Cross-cultural storytelling project born, where a region that is represented in the international student cohort is chosen as the focus for stories, and the tales are interpreted by Aboriginal performers/dancers from the local community.
For Open Day 2008, August 23, stories from Australia and Africa were selected and given new life by a group of talented young dancers with connections to the Uni.
This was the first time I had collaborated with anyone in my storytelling, and I found the process both challenging and very rewarding. I formalised my telling style much more than I normally do, and found that I needed to stick very close to the original telling as we'd rehearsed it, so that the performers knew where they were up to in the story. Being able to respond to the audience wasn't as easy, and meant that story couldn't be adapted on the fly to suit the particular group of listeners.
However, each performance brought new life to the stories, and the audience responded very positively to it. We will certainly continue the project in November with Kids Day Out.

Children's Book Week 2008

For the 4th year in a row, I celebrated Children's Book Week at St John's School, Woy Woy. A full morning of storytelling meant every child in the school was abe to share in stories that fit this years theme of "Fuel your mind."
The younger classes dramatised the story of "Caps for Sale", while the older classes volunteered a helper for the African story of " The Dancing Lion."
All classes laughed at the antics of silly dingo in "Dingo and Goanna play the tap sticks" and shook their heads at the arrogance of the village chief in "All things are connected."
As usual, every child and several of the teachers dressed appropriately to the theme, and the Library was decorated to celebrate CBW.
As usual, one of my favourite gigs of the whole year.
Here's a link to the Newspaper article about the gig.

Workshop for Uni business students

Aug 9, 2008 saw me leading 40 final year Bach of Business students of the Uni of Newcastle in an Organisational storytelling workshop. Combining the theories of Knowledge Management and Communities of Practice with practical storytelling examples meant that the students could see the application of stories in realistic settings. I had some great feedback from the lecturer and some of the students, about how they enjoyed hearing the stories as well and the more factual material. I had a business student approach me just recently this year who had heard about the workshop and wanted some info about Org storytelling for a presentation she had to do.

Friday, October 9, 2009

WriteNow 2008 Workshop

After not being able to do this at Challenge Ranch last year when Glenn had a serious work accident on the day, and my storytelling buddy Jo Henwood valiently jumped in at the very last minute, I was really thrilled to be invited to be part of the WriteNow 2008 activities at Challenge Ranch.
Only students in 5th and 6th grade who have string creative writing abilities get selected to attend the WriteNow camp. My job is to get their creative juices flowing with storytelling, and to set them a story creation task for the following evening.
I did this in a much more structured way this time, and sent a detailed outline to the co-ordinator of what stories I would tell, the issues we would discuss about each of them, and the follow-on activities that I would ask of the students. It was a great night, and we worked solidly for almost two hours. The stories used were 'Heaven and Hell'; 'Bedd Gelert'; and 'Sukkhe and the White horse.'

A dry spell

Between April and August was a dry spell for storytelling, although that allowed me to concentrate on my daugher, who was very ill for the first half of 2008.
I had a few storytelling inquiries during this period, but I either wasn't available on the date required, or the gig just didn't eventuate after the initial inquiry.
It did allow me to concentrate on my study in the times when my daughter didn't need me.

Catching up on storytelling activities

Apologies for not posting any news for such a long time. I've been doing the odd storytelling job here and there, but have really been focussing on my study. So the following few posts will be about each of the gigs I've done, every single one of which I've thoroughly enjoyed.
So first up, back to one of my favourite places to do storytelling, Challenge Ranch at Somersby.
On a balmy summer's night, I told stories to nearly 200 kids at Challenge Rach for a holiday Camp. Over two sessions, we shared stories in the stand alone huts on the far edge of the paddock. The walk through the night air added to the adventure of the experience, and made it something special after they cleaned up from dinner. The teachers/cousellors are always so welcoming, and these were a more lively bunch than I usually tell to at the Ranch, probably because it wasn't a school camp.
I had several volunteers in each group who asked to share a story with the group. I love it when that happens spontaneously. I have to confess to making several audience members cry, for the first time ever in one of my storytelling sessions. I told my reworked version of the Mongolian version of the 'Horse-head fiddle' and children cried in both sessions. I noticed a few of the adults tearing-up as well. A good result for a tragic story I'd say.
I also told the 'Riverside Riddle' a slow, languid tale that speeds up dramatically at the end and has a twist.